Summerfest opens Thursday on Milwaukee’s Lakefront

Hundreds of musical acts will perform on more than a dozen stages during the next 3 weekends

Light from a booth reflects on attendees as they walk the grounds at night.
Summerfest attendees walk across Henry Maier Festival Park on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

The 56th Summerfest begins Thursday at Henry Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee’s lakefront. Hundreds of musical acts will perform on more than a dozen stages during the next three weekends. 

The range of acts is striking: this weekend’s headliners include Motley Crue and SZA. Next weekend, electronic DJ Illenium and Keith Urban. 

“It really tries to be everything to everybody,” said Matt Wild, editor and co-creator of Milwaukee Record.  

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“It’s aiming for a very wide, very diverse audience, from metal bands to hip hop, to classic rock, to more modern stuff, to country,” he continued. “It’s all kind of in there, and that kind of makes it a glorious, really interesting mess to me.”

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley agreed. 

“Just like our community, this lineup is diverse and they’re gonna showcase talents across all genres,” Crowley said. 

Last year, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., the nonprofit corporation that runs the event, reported more than 600,000 people attended during the three weekends. 

“This is a major economic catalyst for our community because it not only brings jobs, but it brings opportunities for our residents, both on and off the stage,” Crowley said. 

Steve Comeau is a Caledonia-based musician who has been working at Summerfest since 1996.

He moves drum sets and guitar amps to make for easy changeovers between bands. He’s previously performed at Summerfest with bands Rocky Rose and Feet of Clay. This year, Comeau is playing drums in a new band called Waiting for Eddie.  

“It’s our first gig, which is kind of crazy,” Comeau said. The band will open for country singer Austin Williams on the BMO stage on June 29. 

Comeau said he loves that the festival is reasonably priced — general admission tickets are $28 — and that organizers make it easy for many people to attend. 

“They have afternoon headliners,” Comeau said. “You can see a great band at 3 o’clock, you know, a headlining band, big national act and go home, you know, by 5:30 or six.” 

It’s a programming choice Wild has also come to appreciate.

“It’s been a slow and steady thing, realizing that yes, I am in the 3 o’clock in the afternoon demographic,” he said. “And yes, I am  among the folks who are really excited to see, you know, the Gin Blossoms play.”

For more details on the event, visit www.summerfest.com.

Summerfest 2024 lineup.

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